Maxime Bouet spent the stage in the escape, as David De La Cruz retained his place in top 10 overall.
There's no such thing as an easy day at the Vuelta a España, as both the riders and fans could see that once again on Wednesday, when the countless moves ignited from the peloton in the opening kilometers of stage 17 (Castellon – Camins del Penyagolosa, 177.5 km) led to crazy speeds and many counterattacks coming from the riders who wanted to feature in the day-long breakaway, despite the fact that the intimidating Mas de la Costa lied ahead.
Both Pieter Serry and Gianluca Brambilla, already a stage winner this edition, on Aramon Formigal, attacked and got a gap together with other riders, but the peloton came back every time and continued to stay together until after the top of Alto del Desierto de las Palmas, when a group eventually moved away from the pack. Among the 28 riders to go clear there was also Etixx – Quick-Step's Maxime Bouet, a stage runner-up at this edition of the Vuelta a España, who helped the breakaway build a significant advantage of nearly seven minutes.
The cohesion of the move went up in smoke with 29 kilometers to go, once Dario Cataldo (Astana) and Mathias Frank (IAM Cycling) jumped ahead of the leading group and kept on pushing until the bottom of the ruthless Mas de la Costa (3.8 kilometers, 12.5% average gradient), dispatching his companion and getting a solo win. Leopold Konig (Team Sky) and Robert Gesink (LottoNL-Jumbo) took the minor placings on the podium, while the main GC contenders came in the same time, despite several attacks on the 22% ramps of the climb.
Once again, David De La Cruz proved that this Vuelta a España is a cornerstone in his career, riding with the legs as well as with his head on the excruciating gradients of the first-category ascent which was making its debut in the race, just as the stage reached its crescendo. The 27-year-old Spaniard – 10th now in the overall rankings – rode a steady pace on Mas de la Costa, without going into red, and didn't concede too much time on the stage 17 finale, showing maturity and an impressive form which keep him in the cards for a solid overall result in his home Grand Tour.
Photo credit: ©Tim De Waele